Writing Tip by Suzanne Lummis

Suzanne Lummis

Here, the object is to enrich the language of your poetry and perhaps also trick yourself into writing a poem you wouldn’t have otherwise.   Sometimes it’s a poem your subconscious has been holding in its storage unit – you just needed the right key.   Open a dictionary at random, here and there, chose sensory, evocative words that you’ve never used in your poems, a selection of nouns, verbs and adjectives—words like puma, swagger and frothy, or gingerbread, captivate and fluorescent.   Add a mineral or precious stone, a celestial body, and a commercial brand name.   Now steal three words from a poet whose work you love (but make sure they’re not the poet’s signature words.   If it’s Plath don’t take “bald,” “hooks,” “moon”).   Put them on scraps of paper and choose a few blind.   Now, instead of starting with a topic or event then searching for the right words, you’ll let the words lead you to the poem’s subject.  Don’t be literal; don’t put everything in its logical context.  Go for the image, use the words in unpredictable ways, and mix them into areas where one wouldn’t expect to see such words.   Good luck.  Viva Poetry.

Biography of Suzanne Lummis: Suzanne Lummis, in a program funded by the NEA, is one of fifty writers selected to represent Los Angeles at the 2009 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Her poems appear in California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books), Poems of the American West (Knopf), Place as Purpose: Poetry of the Western States (Autry/Sun & Moon), and in major literary publications in the U.S. and U.K. Work is forthcoming in The New Ohio Review.  She teaches several levels of poetry through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has developed classes on the Poem Noir (“Poetry Goes to the Movies”), the persona poem and the socio-political poem.  “In Danger,” a collection of poetry, was published by Heyday Books as part of The California Poetry Series.


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